If You Read One Thing Today, Pick an Article That Debunks An ACA “Horror Story”. Here Are Two…

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‘Merlin’ is a matchmaker, not a magician

Sep. 11, 2013 — Johns Hopkins researchers have figured out the specific job of a protein long implicated in tumors of the nervous system. Reporting on a new study described in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Cell, they detail what they call the “matchmaking” activities of a fruit fly protein called Merlin, whose human counterpart, NF2, is a tumor suppressor protein known to cause neurofibromatosis type II when mutated.Merlin (which stands for Moesin-Ezrin-Radixin-Like Protein) was already known to influence the function of another protein, dubbed Hippo, but the particulars of that relationship were unclear. “Now we’ve shown how Merlin and Hippo interact to begin a chain of events that controls the growth of many tissues,” says Duojia Pan, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This insight is important because not only do malfunctions in that chain of events affect growth and development, they can also lead to cancer and other tumors.”Ten years ago, Pan and his research group discovered Hippo, a gene responsible for keeping body parts proportional to the overall size of the fruit fly. They called it Hippo because the absence of the gene, and the protein it codes for, causes fruit flies to develop unusually large and furrowed organs. Since then, they have been working to understand Hippo and all of the proteins in its network that help control organ size.Previous work by others suggested that Merlin may be part of the Hippo network, but it was not known how Merlin fits into the network. In the new study, Pan and his team used a combination of genetics, cell biology and biochemistry to demonstrate that Merlin acts as a matchmaker, helping Hippo find its target protein, known as Warts, by keeping Warts in the right part of the cell.Without Merlin around, inactive copies of Warts would float around in the watery interior of the cell while Hippo waited near the outer envelope of the cell. Merlin, also located near the outer envelope of the cell, arranges their meetings by connecting to Warts so that Warts, too, ends up near the outer envelope, where Hippo then turns it on. …

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Youthful stem cells from bone can heal the heart

Sep. 4, 2013 — Many people who survive a heart attack find themselves back in the hospital with a failing heart just years later. And the outcome often is unfavorable, owing to limited treatment options. But scientists at Temple University School of Medicine’s Cardiovascular Research Center (CVRC) recently found hope in an unlikely source — stem cells in cortical, or compact, bone. In a new study, they show that when it comes to the regeneration of heart tissue, these novel bone-derived cells do a better job than the heart’s own stem cells.According to the study’s senior investigator, Steven R. Houser, Ph.D., FAHA, Chairperson of Temple’s Department of Physiology and Director of the CVRC, it is early days for cortical bone-derived stem cells (CBSCs). Nonetheless, his team’s findings, featured on the cover of the August 16th issue of Circulation Research, have considerable implications for stem cell therapy for the heart.A major challenge in the treatment of heart attack is early intervention, which is key to reducing the chances for long-term complications, such as heart failure. When it comes to stem cells, Houser said, “The strategy is to inject the cells right after [a heart attack].” Currently, though, that approach works only in animal studies. To make it work in humans, Houser explained, “we need cells right off the rack and ready to go clinically.”CBSCs could be those cells. Stem cells are youthful by degrees, and CBSCs are considered some of the most pluripotent — like human newborns, naïve and ready to become anything. …

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Motional layers found in the brain: Neurobiologists discover elementary motion detectors in the fruit fly

Aug. 7, 2013 — Recognising movement and its direction is one of the first and most important processing steps in any visual system. By this way, nearby predators or prey can be detected and even one’s own movements are controlled. More than fifty years ago, a mathematical model predicted how elementary motion detectors must be structured in the brain. However, which nerve cells perform this job and how they are actually connected remained a mystery. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have now come one crucial step closer to this “holy grail of motion vision”: They identified the cells that represent these so-called “elementary motion detectors” in the fruit fly brain. The results show that motion of an observed object is processed in two separate pathways. In each pathway, motion information is processed independently of one another and sorted according to its direction.Ramón y Cajal, the famous neuroanatomist, was the first to examine the brains of flies. Almost a century ago, he thus discovered a group of cells he described as “curious elements with two tufts.” About 50 years later, German physicist Werner Reichardt postulated from his behavioural experiments with flies that they possess “elementary motion detectors,” as he referred to them. These detectors compare changes in luminance between two neighbouring photoreceptor units, or facets, in the fruit fly’s eye for every point in the visual space. …

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Young job seekers, check your privacy settings

July 12, 2013 — Social media websites can be a boon for employers scoping out job applicants, and that’s bad news for certain groups of young people, according to a new Northwestern University study.Researchers found that — among young adults — men, Hispanics and those with lower Internet skills are the least likely to keep employment-related audiences in mind when it comes to their online profiles. Women, whites and those with higher Internet skills are more likely to actively manage their social media privacy settings as they seek a job or maintain employment.This is the first study to analyze how different demographics of young adults approach online reputation management strategies during a job search. It was published online in June in the journal IEEE Security & Privacy.”Young people could benefit from understanding the implications of these issues,” said Eszter Hargittai, lead author of the study. “Without adequate privacy settings, inappropriate pictures or comments posted on a social media profile could be seen by an employer and cost you a job opportunity.”Hargittai is an associate professor and Delaney Family Professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern.”Managing the privacy of your social media profiles can be complex,” she said. “A site’s settings can change quickly, and if you are not keeping track and checking in on your settings regularly, you could inadvertently leave parts of your profile open to the public even if you had set them to more restricted access earlier.”Because a significant portion of the young people in this study seemed at risk in regard to privacy management practices, there may be a need for more formal training from career service organizations, libraries and others on best practices for maintaining self-presentation online, Hargittai said.Study highlights:34.5 percent of men and 25 percent of women never managed their privacy settings or the content of their social media profiles with respect to an employer audience. Whites were much more likely than other races to adjust social media profiles at least once in the past year in anticipation of employers searching for information about them. Hispanics were the least likely to keep an employment-related audience in mind in regards to the content of their online profiles. Women were more likely than men to manage their privacy settings for an employer-related audience and tended to do so more frequently. Those more knowledgeable about Internet privacy matters and privacy-related terms, such as “tagging,” “limited profile” and “preference settings,” were more likely to engage in managing the privacy of their social media profiles. For the study, researchers analyzed responses from a paper-and-pencil survey given to a sample of 545 diverse young adults, ages 21 or 22. …

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Putting the right worker in the right job

July 9, 2013 — Carrots and sticks have long been the favored tool for business managers looking to motivate their workers, whether it’s to encourage with the promise of a raise, or to threaten with firing.But a new study from the University of Iowa suggests that an employee’s personality is also a strong motivator of an employee’s behavior. Mick Mount and Ning Li, management and organization professors in the Tippie College of Business, note that a growing body of evidence suggests that if a worker’s personality doesn’t fit the job requirements, he or she will not be motivated by external factors, no matter how tasty the carrot or painful the stick.They’ve used that observation in a newly published paper that lays out a Grand Theory of what makes people tick at the office.”Our approach shifts the traditional perspective that employee motivational forces are primarily imposed by external situational factors to a view that individual motivation is generated by the pursuit of high-order goals that emanate from one’s personality traits,” they write in their paper, ” The Theory of Purposeful Work Behavior,” published recently in the Academy of Management Review.Mount and Li reviewed decades of research by behavioral scientists to create their theory that tries to explain why people do what they do at work. The theory can help businesses engage in better hiring and training practices to make sure the right worker is in the right job. By determining why smart people who work hard sometimes fail and sometimes succeed, employers can develop tools that motivate workers to perform more effectively. The theory uses what is called the Five Factor Model (FFM), which captures five broad dimensions of personality that are used to describe human personality: extroversion/introversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience. Behavioral scientists for decades have used the FFM to see how people perform at work and interrelate with each other, and it’s proven remarkably effective at explaining human behavior.The Mount and Li theory differs from past research in that it ties FFM personality types to the work environment and the nature of the person’s job. In their integrated theory, workers’ personality traits create high-order goals that they strive to attain in their lives. When the characteristics of their jobs are aligned with their high-order goals, Mount and Li found they tend to be more productive workers.”Striving to naturally express personality traits leads us to invest more personal resources — mental attention, emotional connections, and energetic activity — to fulfill particular types of higher-order goals,” they write. “These implicit goals represent essential, enduring personal agendas that reside at the top of the individual’s goal hierarchy.”They say that if our job allows us to work towards one of those four higher-order goals — status, autonomy, achievement, and communion, or being with other people — then we find a level of psychological fulfillment that intrinsically motivates us to perform our jobs well. If not, then the worker is too bored to care.So, for instance, if an employee is an ambitious, go-getting extrovert whose high-order goal in life is status, then it will be hard for an employer to motivate the person if he or she works in a repetitive job with no advancement opportunity.Conversely, if a worker is a shy, retiring type whose goal is autonomy, he or she will not be motivated to perform better by promises of a promotion to management because the last thing he or she wants is to be in charge of other people.”The implication for businesses, then, is that we first need to understand which goals matter to employees and then match those goals to characteristics of jobs so we can make work more meaningful and intrinsically motivating to the person,” Mount says.The paper was co-authored with Murray Barrick of Texas A&M University.

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